An Open Letter To Kirstie Allsopp: The NCT Really Isn't All Bad

If you REALLY want to talk shitty advice, I went to an NHS breastfeeding class at my local hospital where I was told breastfeeding was a totally effective method of birth control.
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January 7, 2013
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The lovely Ms Allsopp hit the headlines last week, by getting publically enraged by the NCT (that’s the National Childbirth Trust) and their stance on childbirth.

According to Kirstie, the NCT’s view is very dogmatically pro-natural birth – i.e. ejecting a child out of your fanjita, the good old fashioned way, rather than via a caesarean (it’s not entirely clear if she’s also referring to them be being pro or anti pain relief).

She tweeted about this, calling their advice ‘bollocks’ and describing them as ‘a politicised, dogmatic and scary organisation’. To read the whole thing, the Daily Mail, of course, have it covered.

As an opinionated mother, who’s been on an NCT course and successfully ejected a baby from my fanny (I had all the drugs – load me up baby!), I’m not entirely sure I agree with her aggressive attack. But then that’s probably because I had a positive experience.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Kirstie said, ‘I feel that most women want to have a natural birth – I wanted to do that – but I was told I couldn’t for various reasons. Sometimes it isn’t possible and a caesarean section is necessary. I feel that women should be prepared for that too and not made to feel that they have failed in some way if they don’t give birth naturally.’

While her statement above is absolutely true – yes, you might want to give birth au naturel, but situations arise and sometimes that baby has to be cut out of you - I’m not convinced tarring an entire organisation (an organisation that a lot of people find useful) with the same brush is very helpful.

Let me hark back three-and-a-half years, to when I attended my very civilised two-day NCT course. Seven couples sat around in a circle in a Salvation Army hall, all imminently about to become parents.

My husband and I didn’t have a fricking clue what was coming our way. The only two people I’d known who had given birth both had C-sections, so doing it the old-fashioned way was a mystery to me. A scary, horrifying, mystery. Plus, I’d never been in hospital before, so that was also terrifying.

But during this course, we covered some topics in-depth and touched on others that we, as a group, felt didn’t need going over with a fine-tooth comb. I specifically wanted to discuss the drugs (typical) that were available as pain relief, particularly epidurals.

From the total misinformation my mother had fed me, I was led to believe an epidural would leave me feeling dead from the waist down, and that scared me. Turns out, that’s not the case at all.

We discussed birth plans (my birth plan was not to have one and see how things went. Genius), but as any woman who’s had a baby knows, each birth is entirely personal and different – the complexities and way things turn out for each mother all depend on so many different equations, it’s hard to specifically assess every possible result.

We covered C-sections, and why they are sometimes a necessity, but they were never spoken of in a way that would suggest any of the women in my class were about to go ‘sod that, I’m not going through childbirth, just cut the kid out of me’, opting to have a caesarean by choice. Do women even do that?

I had the feeling my NCT instructor wasn’t entirely pro-drugs (especially pethedine/diamorphine which is known to cross the placenta and can have an effect on the baby) and she was definitely pushing breast feeding big time (the same way the Government do). But in all honesty, I left feeling more confident and assured. The breathing skills I learnt in that class were worth the cover fee alone.

Having been reading Kirstie’s Twitter feed for the past few days, she’s certainly not holding back. She’s been raving about how little Post Natal Depression is mentioned on the NCT website, especially versus their 53 mentions of Home Births.

I agree, a website is a massive sprawling space that should encompass everything without bias, but the same cannot be said for the actual, physical NCT class. It’s simply not possible to cover every single topic (for example, I wanted to know how to bathe a baby but there was no real time to cover this, so I was showed at the hospital).

In response, women have been tweeting Kirstie their experiences with NCT and they wildly vary. Sure, we’d all love uniformity and for each NCT rep to teach and cover all the same topics, but in the real world, this just isn’t going to happen.

It’s like phoning your bank: one day you’ll get through to someone who’s super helpful and can assist you entirely and another time you’ll get through to some thicko who makes you want to kill yourself in despair.

If you want to talk about shitty advice, I went to an NHS breastfeeding class held at my local hospital. We were handed out knitted boobs to illustrate, errr boobs, and talked through the least inspiring lessons in breastfeeding ever.

When the elderly instructor (who didn’t look like she’d had a baby's mouth around her nipple in many, many decades) then proceeded to tell a class of twenty-odd women that breastfeeding was a totally effective method of birth control (utter bollocks), which several of us challenged her on, it was the last straw. And that, my friends, is a Government-run advice session.

So Ms Allsopp, if your eyes should happen to grace this column, all I can say is that there’s good and bad everywhere. Sure, I wish everyone had the NCT experience that I, and many of my friends have had, and hopefully your public campaign has booted them into sorting their shit out.

But if you're pregnant now, and you're not getting a positive experience with your NCT class, don't forget it isn’t the only source for expectant parents. Babycentre, Mumsnet and Netmums, are just the tip of a very big iceberg, and if woman iareastute enough to seek out and book themselves on an NCT course, I’m sure they’re smart enough to discover these other fantastic resources to assist them with their births and babies too.

As I say to all my friends expecting babies, you don’t win any medals or prizes for not having the drugs or ejecting your baby out of your vagina. It’s not a competition, you just want everyone safe and well at the end.

Tweet Dani your tales of epidurals, mastitis and stitches @danigraph.